LME034 – Tips for first-time managers – Interview with Mike Ashie

Today I have a guest on my podcast: Mike Ashie from Canada. We talk about tips for first-time managers.

Mike Ashie

Mike Ashie has a great channel on YouTube, called Leadership with Mike. Coming from the transportation and hospitality industry he has years of experience being a manager.

If you haven’t watched his videos, check them out on YouTube. He has lots of great tips and as he is saying:

“I help managers to become leaders and I am doing that with no nonsense sense – if that makes sense.”

Becoming a manager can be overwhelming, especially if it comes to delegating tasks and responsibility. Therefore, check out his delegation course here.

Tips for first-time-managers

In the interview with Mike on his tips for first-time managers I asked him the following questions:

  • What is the difference between a manager and a leader?
  • What is most important for leaders in their first manager role?
  • How can they lead with authority, but without beeing a jerk?
  • What should a new leader do in the first 30 days in his or her new job?
  • What are typical misconceptions first-time managers have about their new position?
  • What are the 3 typical mistakes first-time leaders should avoid when starting their new position?

Listen to the podcast here:

 

LME033 – How I Learned to delegate

Delegation

How I learned to delegate!

I co-founded my first company – it was a high-tech start-up – in 1995. That’s more than 25 years ago.

In that time I had a completely wrong idea of ​​entrepreneurship and leadership. That’s why I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning and only learned over the years what really matters in leadership as well as in entrepreneurship.

The time problem!

My biggest challenge back then was time. Finding time for the important things. I was almost exclusively on the operational side. The day-to-day operations really took me over.

I had the feeling that I always had to keep all the things in the company together, I worked around the clock – often even on weekends.

Everything revolved around the company.

Also at home. Taking a week off, taking a vacation and really switching off – I didn´t really manage to do that. I felt overwhelmed and overworked.

With my first company we had 20 employees, but I always had the feeling that they were working on the wrong things or that they were not doing it correctly, meaning the way I would do it.

I wanted to change this situation but I didn’t know how. I couldn’t even find time to think in silence and focus for example on important strategy issues.

My experience with other managers

In the last few years I worked as a leadership coach for executives and entrepreneurs and I have seen many of them who are in a very similar situation like I was: They work and work all the time, but they are trapped in their operational hamster wheel – sometimes 70-80 hours a week and still find no time for the important things.

Most of them – and I felt the same way – have great difficulty delegating tasks to their employees. It is immediately obvious that this would give them more time but delegating just doesn’t work.

I felt the same way. If I delegated something to my co-workers, it wasn’t done right – not the way I would like it to be. I always had to control and correct them.

Instructing and controling everything

I had the impression that I always had to instruct everything down to the last detail. It was frustrating – and time consuming. But delegating was supposed to buy me time.

Let me describe the situation in which I found myself in these days. Our start-up was all about analysing vibrations of machines.

Similar to how a doctor checks a person’s heartbeat with a stethoscope, we used sensors to analyze the vibrations of machines in order to identify flaws and damage on these machines at an early stage. We developed and sold systems for this, but also performed diagnostics as a service for our customers on site.

Since I worked intensively on this vibration analysis – it was part of my PHD research project years before we founded our company –  I was usually the one who carried out these diagnoses for our customers. I was the expert at that time.

I had to delegate.

As our company grew, I had to choose to delegate these diagnostic tasks. After all, it was no longer my job as managing director to stand knee-deep in oil and use sensors to diagnose machines on site. Although I enjoyed it. It was fun. But I had to change from being a technical expert to being a manager. And that was difficult for me. It was difficult to change.

In my opinion in this time: None of my employees seemed good enough to do the analysis as I did.

Only then when I simply didn´t have time anymore to do it, I had to delegate these tasks – whether I wanted to or not.

Because at that time I built up our international sales structure and was therefore traveling abroad a lot. Most of the time I was somewhere in the world, so I couldn’t control everything and everyone anymore.

The changed situation

Now something interesting happened: I wasn’t there – I was somewhere else. I couldn’t give instructions and constantly check-up on my employees.

So, what happened? Sure, in the beginning a lot went wrong. My co-workers did a lot of things differently compared to how I would have done it.  They made mistakes which, as I believed at the time, would not have happened to me – but then – after a while, the results got better and better. Two employees even stood out. Their diagnostic results were not only as good but even better than mine. After about a year and a half, they carried out significantly better diagnoses than I did.

That was fascinating.

And through this experience, it has become much easier for me to delegate tasks to others. I know it will likely get worse at first and take longer – but then I have a good chance that the task will not only be done as well as I would do it, but even better.

Starting to delegate is an investment in employee training – it costs time and energy. But it’s worth it.

When you delegate a task to your employee, you put it in their hands. You trust that they will get it done by the agreed date.

Here it is important: If you delegated a task, avoid asking your employee about the progress of their work before the agreed date.

Do not check up on them all the time, but only check the agreed result.

Otherwise you will prevent your employee to take real responsibility for the taks. I know, you probably don’t mean to do so, but this is what happens. Because what you are doing is micromanaging.

For example: If you ask your employee before the agree deadline: “So, how is it going? Will you be ready on time?”

If you delegated the task the right way and you ask this question you show her that you don’t trust her. You don’t trust that she will be finished on time. But wait: She promised you to meet the deadline when you delegated the task, right? S, why do you ask her before the deadline is due?

Don’t get me wrong!

It can be hard to hold back. But this is crucial if you want to build trust in your employees and if you want to help your employees to improve.

By the way: Make sure that you always delegate the tasks depending on the skills of your employees. You can assign a large project to an experienced employee and after 2 months you only control the result. That is ok.

But with someone who is not so experienced, you have to break the project down. You can arrange weekly appointments, so called milestones to monitor the progress of the project. But be careful: Only check at the agreed time, not in between.

The rule for delegation is: Check previously agreed results at the agreed time, but not the process!

Avoid Reverse delegation!

Let me give you another important tip:

Perhaps you´re familiar with the following situation:

Yesterday you delegated an important task to your employee John. He should prepare a project report by next week. Today you are quite stressed and on your way to the next meeting when John approaches you in passing:

“Boss, it’s good to see you. I have a problem. I’m supposed to write the project report. I’ve put something together, but somehow I’m not getting anywhere. You know a lot about XYZ. Could you take a quick look at what I wrote and maybe add a couple of keywords?”

So? How do you react? Mentally you are actually already at that meeting. Yes, you are the expert on Project XYZ, but actually you have neither the time for it nor can you think about that in the moment. You are just thinking:

“How can I get rid of John as quickly as possible?”

So you say:

“OK, give me your notes. I’ll take care of it later. “

And whoosh – just like that there´s one more task on your desk – a task that you actually delegated to your employee, right?

That is called a reverse delegation or upward delegation. If you, as the boss, take on the delegated tasks, you are doing the work that your employees should actually be doing. This is fatal because then you have no time for your actual tasks.

Many bosses suffer from upward delegation.

The question is why? – The answer is:Because they let their employees do this.

So what’s the best way to avoid that? You could just block the conversation by saying:

„John, am I supposed to do your job?“

But that’s not constructive. That’s frustrating and only makes your employees feel like they are not getting any support from you. You definitely want to support your employees if it is necessary.

The solution

You make an appointment with your employee to discuss the problem without hurries:

“Sorry John, now is not a good time but we can discuss this in my office in half an hour.”

So what`s happening here? You kill two birds with one stone: On the one hand: You are not controlled by someone else. That is very important. On the other hand, you give your employee enough time to think about his or her problem again. Maybe he or she will come up with the solution without your help. Great!

And if not, you can help your employee during your arranged meeting.

Listen to the podcast episode

LME032 – Why I quit my job as a highly paid manager!

20 years ago I started working as a manager in a large company. It was a well paid job and I enjoyed it.

My goal was to build up a technical service division from scratch. That was a challenge. But Top Management gave me the resources to hire the right people and to build service teams all over the world.

Leading my team

In that time I learned a lot about how to manage people. And I really enjoyed leading and working with my team. My team connected with my strategy and with my service vision. They also had great ideas and so we got more and more business. Our division was profitable. After a few years my team grew to 350 service employees worldwide.

In that time I traveled a lot in order to support my team. I liked traveling but especially I loved working with my team.

The problem

The problem was something else: I got more and more frustrated strange decisions of my superiors and with burocracy: You Know typical corporate rules, hidden agendas and political games: I hated it!

Decisions I needed from top management took longer and longer. It was tenacious.

Change of strategy

Then Top management shifted focus. They changed the company strategy. In their new strategy services were not that important any longer. Of course, I was convinced that this was wrong.

And I didn’t hold back to talk and complain about this mistake. I was annoyed. I remember that I even told the board that I not just don’t agree but that I think this is a totally stupid decision. Yep. I was not very diplomatic.

First lesson here: If you bluntly tell some board members what you think about their stupid decision: That can feel very good. Yesss. – But it only lasts shortly.

From a long term perspective it is not a good idea to behave like this. Don’t do it. Just don’t! You will not achieve what you want.

“You cannot convince someone by making him an idiot.”

Also I was sure some of these board members … but let’s better stop here.

Loosing focus

Let’s put it like this: I got more and more into conflict with some board members. I spend more time on company politics than on growing our service business. That’s why I became frustrated and sometimes even grumpy.

I had regular one-on-one meetings with my direct reports. In one of these one-on-ones my operations manager told me:

„Bernd, it seems that you lost your vision as a leader.“

That hit me hard. It hurt because I was proud of my team and I was proud to lead this team. And now I got the feedback from one of my valued team members that I lost my vision. That was difficult to swallow.

Working with a business coach

Fortunatly, in that time Human Resources offered me to work with a business coach. It seemed that Top Management still wanted me to stay in the company. They didn’t want me to quit. But they wanted me to become a better corporate manager and to play by the rules.

I liked the idea to work with a business coach: Someone who is independent and has no stake in the company: That can be helpful, right?

And that’s what happened. Working with this business coach helped me to better understand my role as a manager. He made it clear that decisions taken by top management weren‘t my responsibility. In my role it was expected that I either accept it or that I have to quit and leave the company.

But I couldn’t accept the strategy change because it would have a negative impact on the services my team and me built up over the years.

Time to leave my job?

So, I thought I needed to leave. That’s why I applied for manager jobs in other companies. And I got some exciting and even higher paid job offers. And to be honest my existing salary was already quite high.

But I didn’t took any of the job offers.

Why?

I remember one situation vividly: I applied for an interesting new job and I got invited for an interview with the CEO. When I arrived at the building of this company I looked around. It was a nice office compley similar to the one where my office was.

And in this moment it struck me:

Even if I changed my job and even if I started somewhere else as an employed manager, it would be the same. After some time it would become the same corporate rat race. Someone would take a decision I can’t accept,and then I would be in the same situation. And in that moment I felt that this is not what I want.

It was not my employer who was wrong nor the – in my view – stupid board managers. It were even not the burocratic corporate structures. The problem was that I didn‘t fit into corporate systems any longer.

Leaving corporate

It still took some months for me to take the decision and to quit my job. I mean it was hard for me to quit my job because I quit working with the team I lead over 9 years. And of course it is also not easy to become self employed and to start your own business.

But it’s worse to stay in a job you don’t like and which makes you miserable.

Dave Ramsey is spot on:

“When your spirit leaves, take your body with it!“

You have to live by your values!

And I learned that my most important values are freedom and self determination. That’s why I started my own business. A corporate job is not bad. It was good for me for a certain time, but it wasn’t the right job for me any longer.

Today I work as a leadership and business coach,helping others to become the leader they always wanted to be. In that job I can live by my values and it’s exactly what I want to do.

Watch the video:

Listen to the podcast episode:

The inspiring quote

“When your spirit leaves, take your body with it!“

Dave Ramsey

LME031 – One-on-one meetings: Why to to do them and what questions to ask

As a boss, you should have regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. But what do you actually talk about? How often should you meet?

My experience with one-on-one meetings

During my time as managing director and employed manager, I conducted a large number of meetings with employees.

As a boss, you can screw up a lot – and that’s what I did. Over time, however, I learned how it works ,I improved and, above all, I understood how important and meaningful it is to have regular one-on-one meetings.

The big misconception

Many bosses only associate the term “one-on-one meeting” with an annual face to face meeting. After all, that’s what HR requires every year.

 “That is not correct. I talk to my employees all the time, for example during coffee breaks, or between team meetings.”

Yes, that may be right. But most of these conversations are mostly about day-to-day business, things that are urgent. There is deadline pressure. Something is burning and a decision has to be made quickly.

You also talk about upcoming problems during a jour fixe meeting. Here too, it’s mostly about day-to-day operations.

However, there are certainly occasions and matters for an arranged one-on-one meeting regarding employee issues.

For instance, I suppose you have a meeting if there is escalating conflict or you need to talk with your employee about a salary increase.

When do you talk about personal stuff with your employee?

The problem is that conversations dealing with employee issues are too rare. So, when do you talk about personnel development, the mental state, questions about major goals, your business vision, the strategic direction of the department or the company? When do you do these talks with your employee?

“We do that during the annual meeting. And otherwise there is also the meeting of the workforce every quarter. We have a lot to do here. I can’t constantly talk to everyone about their feelings. ”

That´s too short-term focused.

Many bosses underestimate the so-called one-on-ones. This one-on-one meetings serve to build trust: the boss’s trust in the employee and vice versa.

A one-one-one meeting is not about day-to-day business.

It’s all about building trust

It is about building trust, it is about orientation, it is about essential decisions, often also about personal matters. One-on-one talks are about important things that are not necessarily urgent.

One-on-One talks are also about information exchange and the exchange of expectations. What does the boss expect from the employee and vice versa.

Trust between employees and managers only builds up over time. Both parties need to speak to each other to get to know each other.

“OK, but what do I talk about during one-on-ones, if it is not about daily work?”

What to talk to in one-on-one meetings

Well, ask questions outside the day-to-day work. Encourage your employees.

For example try to get answers to:

  • What are your employee’s current challenges?
  • Does your employee know your expectations?
  • What does your employee expect from you?
  • Does he or she know your actual goals, the goals of your company? What’s about your company vision and strategy? How does your employee think and feel about it?
  • What goals and visions does your employee have?
  • Do you know what is important to you and what is important to your employee?
  • What challenges does your employee face? At work as well as in private.
  • What kind of support does your employee need from you?
  • What kind of support can you offer?

There are a lot of things you can and you should talk about.

This intensive exchange between you and your employee rarely happens during day-to-day business, right? It is therefore important to arrange regular one-on-one meetings with your employees.

How often should you meet one-on-one?

My recommendation: Do it once a week for 30 min with each of your direct reports, i.e. the employees who report directly to you. You may say:

“What? With each of my 7 employees? That would be 7 x 30 min = 210 min, i.e. 3.5 hours per week. Are you out of your mind? I don’t have time for that. “

Please keep in mind: if you work 40 hours a week – and I know as a boss you will probably work even longer – but even at 40 hours a week it does not even amount to 10% of your working hours.

You’re a leader, aren’t you? You lead people. Therefore, your employees should be worth 10% of your time, right?

One-on-ones have a huge ROI

In the long term, these talks will bring an incredible return on investment. They save you massive amounts of time and money. It is an investment with a great ROI.

If you do it right, you will get motivated, thoughtful employees who will pull in the same direction along with you. You will be able to tell much better as to how your employee is doing.

As you get to know your employees better and better during these one-on-ones over time, you will be able to delegate tasks much better and get your time back.

If you take the time for the one-on-ones, you will show appreciation to your employees. That creates trust.

And if you have a trusting relationship, your employee will tell you, for example, if he has problems or if she is dissatisfied with the job.

That’s a surprise…

I keep meeting executives and managers who are taken completely by surprise when one of their best employees suddenly quits and then they say:

“I didn’t see that coming.”

Well, too bad. Almost always there are many red flags beforehand indicating that an employee is going to quit.

You will only notice these signals, if you spend time you’re your employee and if you exchange ideas with your employees in one-on-one meetings on a regular basis.

Click here for more info on one-on-one meetings

Listen to the podcast episode:

The inspiring quote

“When you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you can see that the person critiquing you is merely trying to help.”

Fran Hauser

LME030 – New as a manager – 5 important tips

You just got promoted? You are new in your manager role? Congratulations!
Especially at the beginning in your new position, you surely don’t want to make any unnecessary mistakes, right? You want to become a good manager.

New as a manager

Yesterday an administrative worker and today you are a team leader or a group leader. That’s great.

But now you think: what do you have to do to be accepted and respected in your new role by your team members as well as by your boss right from the start?

What‘s important especially during the first weeks? What makes the difference? What do you need to keep in mind?

5 most important tips when becoming manager

Here are my five tips for you as a newly appointed manager.

1. Know your bosses expectations!

How good you are in your job, and whether or not you perform well, that’s something not you or your team members assess, but only your boss.

Therefore, make sure to understand what is expected of you in your new role. Only if you truly know the expectations, you will be able to adopt and live up to them.

For that reason, ask your manager to meet with you. Ask him what his goals are, what is important to him, and how can you help him. What does your boss think what your priorities should be in the coming weeks? What should you keep in mind while working together and what kind of communication does he want?

Get to know your boss, how he thinks, how he works. Which decisions can you make on your own and on which ones does he want to be involved?

„My new team manager is driving me crazy. He sends me a copy of almost all his emails, as my inbox isn’t overflowing already. What a hell do I need all this information for?!“

How exactly wants your boss to be kept in the loop? Does he just want a short email once a week or does he want to be informed about everyone and everything at all times and expects a detailed report every other day – perhaps even including a 5-pages Excel-Sheet every day? Try to find out!

And, to make it clear again: it‘s not you who decide whether you’re doing a good job or not – it’s your boss. And his assessment is based on whether or not you meet his expectations. Sorry, but that’s how it works!

2. Don’t rely only on facts, data and figures!

Take your time for a conversation with your employee and colleague. If you are a manager it is not just about asking for reports, numbers, dates and facts.

It’s about people: About understanding the people that work in your organisation. What drives them? Why are they doing what they do? Listen to their earlier successes and difficulties. Keep asking, so you can truly understand, and – most importantly – don’t judge or evaluate; at least not during the first days.

During the first weeks you try to get a glimpse. Get a picture of how the organisation ticks and how it functions. When are the decisions made? How, by whom and why? Try to get a feel for it.

How people and departments or teams really work is nothing you can see in spreadsheets and organisation charts, but you rather need to know or get a feeling for unwritten rules and hidden agendas. Only then, you can avoid dropping a brick accidentally.

3. Avoid actionism!

The first 4 to 6 weeks as a new leader are your orientation phase. What matters during this time is for you to understand your environment, your team members and colleagues and to find your role.

At this point you shouldn’t make any changes – even if your employees would like you to change things up. Why? Because in the beginning you are not familiar with hidden and unwritten rules and customs in the organisation. You can’t see the full extend of the existing power relations yet. But you need this information to make a good assessment.

Some rules and principles that may seem pointless to you in the beginning might start to make sense once you understand how and why they actually came into place. Try first to comprehend and understand.

Only make far-reaching decisions if you can really assess what impact they will have.

4. Don’t speak badly about your predecessor!

„Well, ladies and gentlemen, as you know: from today on I’m the new head of department here and I had a good look at everything. And, to be honest, I’m not surprised that we are not leading the market. There is a lot that needs to be changed. The way that you as a team performed in the past years was – to put it mildly – not ideal. Your work leaves a lot to be desired. There’s much room for improvement.“

Don’t do that!

Be appreciative towards the organisations past and towards the employees, team members and colleagues and their earlier successes. Even if it wasn’t all that good and even if you already know that some things need to change. Hold back on your assessment.

„What my predecessor has left me with here is nothing short of an absolute mess. It seems like, apart from going on business trips he hasn’t done much at all.“

And, did I mention: don‘t speak ill about your predecessor – not in your introductory speech, and not later. Never!

5. Don’t aim to be popular!

As a leader you are not longer just one of many in the team. As the the team leader you are the boss, not a buddy from work anymore. You have to re-consider your previous communication and behaviour. Most likely you need to make adjustments in one domain or another to adapt to your new role.

The real issues that a leader or manager has to deal with are almost never specialist or technical subjects but it‘s the interpersonal relationships.

As a leader you need to find the right balance between closeness and distance to your employees.

Of course, it is a great feeling to know that you are liked by your team members, but it‘s not the goal of successful leadership to be popular. What is paramount is that you are respected – and not because of your position, but because of your behaviour.

Being a leader is about establishing trust. You don’t need to be or try to become best friends with your employee.

Your goal should be to become trustworthy and to be fair and honest in everything you do.

 

Listen to the podcast version

 

The inspiring quote

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

John F. Kennedy

My first short film: “Klaus Buhmann in job interviews”

It was the first time for me to work on such a film project with professional actors and a great director.

I really enjoyed the shoot and I learned a lot. Many thanks to Melissa Lambert Max Halim, Normen Nowotko and Marc David.

Klaus Buhmann in Job Interviews

The 10 min film is in German but has English subtitles:

What is this film about?

Klaus Buhmann is choleric and slightly narcissistic but he is convinced that he is a good leader.

As division and branch manager of the pump manufacturer Fluidtronic AG he is looking for a new employee to fill the position of a product manager.

The head office has put a human resources manager, Ms Zielinski, at his side for the job interviews …

LME029 – How to set goals with your employees

goal setting with employeesGoal setting with employees is not easy. How can you be successful with it? On what exactly do you have to pay attention to?

It is not easy to agree on goals with employees in such a way that they are actually implemented and achieved. During my time as managing director, I also had to learn that the hard way.

Listen to the podcast version

How most companies set goals with employees

Top-Management develops a strategy based on the company’s vision. Then goals are derived from the strategy: strategic, tactical and operational goals.

These goals are then broken down into divisions and departments. Then the managers of these divisions and departmens set these goals for their employees or – which is much better – agree on goals with their employees.

The idea behind

Goals help the company to ensure that everyone – the employees as well as the bosses – go in the same direction.

So talking about goals helps to clarify on where to go. However, they must be the right goals and it is also important how everyone deals with the goals.

Why?

Before defining goals, we need to know “why”. Therefore: It all starts with the corporate vision and corporate strategy.

If the “why” is not clear, if the corporate strategy is missing, then the goal is nothing you can grasp.

“Our goal for next year is to increase sales by 30%.”

“OK and why? Why is it 30%? “

“What do you mean “why”?  Because I say so! “

Why should sales be increased by 30%? Or: Why should a new product be developed? The boss should be able to answer these questions before breaking down goals.

Goals bring focus, but…

Goals bring focus, but they must not restrict the big picture and flexibility too much. This is of course a balancing act.

I believe that if the achievement of a major goal is far ahead in the future, the goal should be formulated vaguely.

“John, how much money can we make with our biggest customer, Siemens AG in 5 years and especially with which product groups?”

“Uh, I don’t know, boss!”

“But I need the numbers. How else am I supposed to draw up a solid plan and budget for the next 5 years?”

Set goals with employees correctly

How detailled should the goal be?

That is nonsense! Why should anyone describe the exact achievement of goals in detail, which will arise sometime in 5 years. Until then, a lot can happen.

However, this does not mean that goals and measures should be formulated vaguely in principle. But on the contrary. The shorter the deadline for a goal, the clearer the goal must be formulated.

I really like the approach used for agile project management. This is characterized by adaptive planning.

So instead of making a comprehensive, detailed plan at the beginning of the project, regular planning meetings take place at short intervals. In this way, you can react flexibly to unforeseen or unpredictable changes.

So we need definitely a big goal, but it is not specified in detail. But the short-term goals and measures for the next 2-4 weeks: They should be clear, described in detail and agreed upon.

Similarly, you can deal with goals in a very volatile environment – even outside of project management.

Example for adaptive planning

You have defined an annual goal, e.g. the sales or net income of the company. Based on this you have roughly defined sub-goals and measures.

Once a month, you can discuss the sub-goals and measures for the next 30 days with your employees. This means: for 29 days, the boss and employees focus on short-term achievement of goals and on the measures to be implemented.

And one day a month, you take the time to talk extensively about setting and agreeing on goals. Have you and your team achieved your short-term goals?

If not – what was the problem? Did new things come up? Do the goals need to be adjusted? This one day is used to stay flexible, adjust the strategy, share a bird´s-eye view and to adjust the planning to achieve your big goal.

A monthly rhythm may not be the right time frame for a large car company, but for a small, medium-sized company for example in mechanical engineering it can make sense.

In this way, you have regular conversations with your employees, you can adjust goals together. You focus on short-term implementations, but you do not neglect new ideas, impressions and necessary goal adjustments.

Unfortunately, only very few companies do this. Many really think that it is enough to formulate the goals once a year and then check what you have achieved at the end of the year. In a volatile environment, this is not the way to go.

My 5 tips for how to set goals with employees

Here are my 5 most important tips for your goal setting with employees.

1. Goals must be agreed upon!

If you as the boss just simply set the goals for your team, is not a good idea. You wouldn’t get any commitment from your employees. Nothing will be gained from this. There will be no motivation to reach the goal.

M;uch better is: If you want to have actively thinking, independent employees, you have to discuss and get your team to agree on goals. You have to ask, discuss and convince, not just set goals.

2. Set verifiable goals

A goal always has a deadline. That’s a must. It is also beneficial if the goal is measurable. Then it’s easy. But often goals are not measurable. Nevertheless, the goal should be formulated in such a way that it is crystal clear for everyone involved whether the goal has been reached by the deadline or not.

3. Goals need space!

Those who lead with goals must not micromanage. Anyone who agrees on a goal with his or her team agrees on who and what and when, but not on how.

Well defined goals describe a desired outcome, but leave open how it can best be achieved. The employee decides which measures must be taken to achieve the goal. It should be their creative freedom.

4. Focus only on a few goals!

There is no point in agreeing on 20 goals with your employee. You get bogged down. Managers and employees should consider a maximum of three goals and agree on them.

5. Document goals and check them regularly!

If you have agreed on goals with your employee, document them and check them along with your employee regularly – for example, once a month or once a week. Goals only make sense if you check their achievement regularly.

How to deal with a demanding boss when goal setting

If you’d like to know how to deal with a demanding boss when agreeing on goals, watch this video or read the following post:
How to deal with a demanding boss

The inspiring quote

“You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.”

Steve Garvey

LME028 – What do you wish you knew, before becoming a successful leader?

A lot of people, who aren’t in an executive position think that if you are promoted  in a company or an organization or if you become your own boss as an entrepreneur, people will just follow you because now you are the leader.

And everything becomes more easy because now you are in charge and people follow you.

Sorry, guys! But this isn’t true. Becoming a leader is mostly totally different to what you might expected.

What do you wish you knew, before becoming a successful leader?

Therefore, I invited 5 leaders with different backgrounds for my podcast show. I wanted to know from them, what they wish they knew, before becoming successful leaders.

What we would have loved to know about Leadership

 

1. Dan Lovaglia

Dan Lovaglia

We start with Dan. He is a ministry consultant and leadership coach in the Chicago area in the US.

I recently heard Patrick Lencioni author of “The Motive”, his most recent book and business leadership consultant say:

“Everyone has influence. And they probably shouldn’t.”

This quote rocked me to the core. The fact is when I stepped into leadership, the one thing that I didn’t know was that it was going to cost me something. I was going to have to pay a price.

In fact, I’ve used this phrase over the years. If I lead, I will pay a price. If I don’t others will.

My name is Dan Lovaglia. I’m a staffing and coaching associate with Slingshot group. We’re a nationwide team that works with ministries and churches across the US to build remarkable teams.

I love being part of an endeavor where we get to walk alongside people, partner with them as they grow in their leadership, grow the ministries and initiatives that they’re wanting to be about because they know that they’re stewards of something important.

And they know that if they don’t stand up, speak up, take steps forward, somebody is going to pay a price. And hopefully as a leader, they recognize – like I’ve come to recognize I’m going to pay a price first.

It’s important for me to step into leadership, knowing that I’m going to have influence, and I want it to be the right kind of influence for the right direction and the right reasons.

I think Dan is spot on. If you lead you will have to pay a price and you need to think about that before you start to become a leader.

If you like to contact Dan, just click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/danlovaglia/

2. Gleb Tsipursky

Gleb Tsipursky

Gleb helps leaders to avoid disasters. He is a best selling author, a coach, trainer and speaker and lives in the Ohio area in the US.

You should never go with your gut. Does it sound surprising to you that I say that? After all, you get so much advice to go with your gut, follow your intuition, be primal, be savage and so on.

What can Huff calls, whatever? Well, unfortunately, the people who give you such advice are just giving you the modern equivalent of snake oil.

Going with our gut. Intuition is terrible advice. It is pretty horrible because intuitions are not adapted for the modern environment. There are definitely for the ancestral environment.

Think about how we meet friends. Like let’s say how we’re meeting COVID-19. We have a very intense fight or flight response that stems from our environment.

We have to jump at a hundred shadows to get away from that one saber tooth tiger. And now people are responding to the COVID 19 with either a defensive response going out and buying a lot of stuff that they won’t need later, or the flight response, but ignoring it, they’re saying, you know,

Hey, our life is great. Everything is fine. But it can be a problem. We are not responding well at all to the reality that the COVID-19 is a huge, slow moving train wreck.

I really don’t see leaders literally preparing for the reality that we’ll be living with it for at least the next two to three years until we have a vaccine and distributed them widely.

So this is a big problem that leaders aren’t changing their business model and individual professionals aren’t changing their career track to adapt to the reality of COVID-19.

Very true. I believe I would have made less mistakes in my business life if I paid attention to this. Yes, you should never go purely with your gut intuition.

If you like to get in contact with Glen, click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-gleb-tsipursky/

3. Jessica Dreistadt

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Jessica has served as the leader of a family center system in a public school district, a shelter for families experiencing homelessness, a community development corporation, and a women’s leadership network.

My name is Jessica and I’m the facilitator of the women’s creative leadership network.

There are several things I wish someone would have told me on the way to becoming a successful leader.

And I also believe that as a leader, it’s important for us to share this knowledge with the next generation.

The biggest thing I wish that I had known is that there’s no such thing as perfect. There’s not one right way to do things or only one best choice.

Leading is really much more complex than that. When we hold ourselves to impossible standards as leaders, it just sets us up for disappointment and it wastes precious energy that could instead be put into learning.

It’s also demoralizing to the people around us. So in other words, it’s okay to make mistakes, just be open to learning from them.

And if you’re not making mistakes, then you probably aren’t taking enough.

I fully agree with Jessica. As a leader we need to recall again and again that there is no such thing as perfect.

I foyu’d like to get in touch with Jessica, click here:
https://www.facebook.com/jess.dreistadt

4. Ola Yetunde Harris

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Ola is a sales and marketing expert from Johannesbourg in Southafrica.

Hi, my name is Ola Yetunde Harris. I manage several different entrepreneurship groups on Facebook, as well as a sales team.

And the biggest thing I wish I knew before becoming a leader is that you never been to get it all passive. You need to just keep moving, put your best actions in and just strive to get things done rather than get things perfect.

The other thing would be that, as a leader it is you job to always be on the look out for the best people that suit certain tasks, because you cannot win by putting square pegs in a sicko.

Or in other words, you have to look at what people natural talents are and try to fit them into the task that you need to get done.

Those are the two things that I really wish that I knew before becoming a leader and not having to force that.

Thanks Ola for giving us 2 lessons. I believe it is very important to understand that you never get it all perfect. Most important is: You need just to get moving. That’s so true. And yes looking for the right place for the right people to work for you is crucial.

If you like to get in touch with Ola, just click here:
https://www.facebook.com/olayiwola.odemwingee

5. Paul LaRue

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Paul lives in the Colorado are in the US. He is a restaurant operations consultant. He is a leadership & organizational coach and speaker.

Hello, this is Paul LaRue, leadership and business consultant and founder of the UPwards Leader.

Back in my university days, I was part of the student leadership organization.

Our institutions laws had criteria for membership, solid grades, supporting the local community and being active and other student organizations.

After my second year with the group, I noticed the ideas we were founded on are becoming diluted. Sitting members were loosening the selection criteria for new members.

It was becoming more of a social group rather than an institution that stood as the standard for other campus organizations.

One member D wanted to bring his friend Robin in because he thought Robin was cool and D wanted to gain status in our group.

Robin fell short of our member criteria. D was able to get Robin approved.

Soon afterwards Robin ended up violating our bylaws and face expulsion, but D was able to maneuver and maintain Robin’s membership.

I saw this downward trajectory and organization and mentioned it to a fellow member, but we failed to act.

Two years after I graduated, our organizations charter was permanently destroyed. It was then I realized that culture with proper checks and balances is essential for the success of any group or company. Bringing in a board of people do the culture fit, not ego or status is about the purpose of any organization and the glue that holds it together.

When culture is not held as the measure of what an organization is and who his people are, that institution will inevitably fall apart. It was a valuable lesson that has served me well all these years.

Thanks Paul for that important insight. Yes, in any business or organization it is crucial that proper checks and balances exist. The culture fit not ego or status of the people involved holds an organization together.

If you like to get in touch with Paul, click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paullaruejr/

 

Thanks a lot for all participants. I’d like to end this post with an inspiring quote from Jack Welsh:

„Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others“

 

Listen to the podcast

 

LME027 – One-on-one meetings! What matters most!

As a leader you should have one-on-one meetings with your direct reports regularly.

But how do you introduce one on ones to your direct reports? How does such an one-on-one meeting work? How do you get started and what exactly should you say in such meetings?

one-on-one

one-on-one

My experience with one-on-ones

During my time as a manager, I had lots of meetings with my direct reports.

However, from todays point of view, I should have conducted one-on-one meetings more frequently and especially regularly. Over time, I realized how valuable this management tool – the one-on-one meeting – is and how important it is to build trust with your direct reports.

When I talk to executives about these one-on-ones, I often hear:

“I know that I should regularly take the time to talk to each of my direct reports, but I don’t have time for it. There is always so much to do.”

Well, if the one-on-ones are important to you – I mean really important to you – then you should find the time to talk to each of your direct reports at least 20 minutes every week or at least every 14 days.

Of course this is easier said than done, but in the long run these conversations will bring you an incredible return on investment. They save you a lot of time and money.

If you do it right, you will get motivated people who will think along similar lines and pull in the same direction along with you.

These one-on-ones will help you to get to know your employees better and better. But most important: You build trust which makes it easier for you to delegate tasks.

If you have one-on-ones regularly, you will become much better at understanding what is going on with your employees and how you can support them.

 „OK – and what do I have to consider for these one-on-one talks?“

It’s a conversation between two people.

If possible, these conversations should take place in a quiet, relaxed environment. That can, but does not have to be in the office. You can also have such a conversation during a walk together, so to say a meeting “on the go”.

Focus on your direct report.

It is important that you are focused on the matter and only concentrate on your employee. No distraction! Avoid interruption of any kind!

And please remember: In a one-on-one meeting its clear that your smartphone is switched off. I don’t have to point that out, do I?

A one-on-one is an employee meeting!

Why is it called like that? That is because the employee talks more than the boss.

It is mainly the time of the employee spending with his manager, not the other way around.

“Well, but how do I start such a conversation and what should I talk about?”

The one-on-one process

Let´s talk about the rough process of one-on-one meetings first: Each one-on-one is different. They are unique because people are unique.

Nevertheless: Especially if you have just officially started regular one-on-one meetings, it is beneficial to provide a rough framework. For simplicity, we assume 30 minutes. You can then divide these 30 min one-on-ones into three 10 min parts, for example:

Part 1: Employees time only

You start the conversation with a question and then you listen. This is the time when your direct report wants to discuss matters that are important to him or her.

Part 2: Your time

The manager addresses issues such as giving feedback for instance. You can also inform about goals or talk about organizational changes and hear your employee’s opinion on them.

Part 3: It’s about the future.

What is in store for the next few days. Talk about your plans. Ask about his or her plans. If you have agreed on actions to be carried out then you can briefly summarize them at the end of the one-on-one meeting.

It is just a framework…

As I said before, these 3 parts are just a rough framework, a kind of guideline that can be helpful to you especially when you start one-on-one meetings with your direct reports and if you haven’t done it before.

The meetings don’t necessarily have to be 30 minutes. Start with 15 minutes or 20 minutes. The individual parts can also be of different lengths. If the employee has many things to discuss, just talk about them and skip the other parts. That’s ok.

The key is: just start with one-on-ones. And very important: do one-on-ones regularly – and I mean weekly or at least bi weekly.

“I feel stupid about it. I don’t know how to start the conversation …
What should I talk about?”

Good question. I have put together a free checklist for one-on-one meetings with examples and tips how to conduct one-on-one meetings. You’ll find the link to the free download in the YouTube description and in the comments.

If you introduce one-on-ones, you may feel uncomfortable at the beginning. That’s normal. The situation may seem strange to you.

“What does the employee think about me when I suddenly start with such personal meetings?”

Just hang in there. It is worth it.

You can easily start a one-on-one by asking open questions, for example:

 “John, how is it going? How are you doing? “

or

“John, what is your biggest challenge right now?”

or

“Is there anything I can currently support you with?”

If that leads to nothing, you can also ask about current developments in the company, e.g.

“John, what do you think of our recent organizational change? What´s your take on that? “

All the questions are used to break the ice and start a conversation with your employee. Get involved, be interested in her or his opinion and ask.

You can also ask questions like:

Where did you feel friction in the last week? Where there specific meetings or situations where we as a team can improve?

or

You know that we strive in our company for customer satisfaction. But I also know that some of our rules and customer processes are not ideal at all. I ‘m interested in your opinion. Where do we need to improve? What needs to change?

or

What feedback do you have for me? Where can I as a manager improve?
For example: What do you want to do me more and what should I do less?

 

Start with open questions.

But note that it is your job to start with such open questions. After that, you listen actively. You can ask if you don’t understand something but you listen carefully.

If you are introducing one-on-ones, explain to your employees why you are doing this, what the talks will roughly be about and what advantages your employees will gain from it.

The greatest advantage of one-on-ones?

Do you know what most employees consider the greatest advantage of such meetings?

It is the undisturbed, undivided time they can spend with their manager. Your employees know very well that you are always under time pressure. So if you take your time and spend them with them, that shows appreciation.

I, the employee, am important to my boss because otherwise he wouldn’t spend regularly time with me, right?

What to do if I feel uncomfortable…

If thinking about starting one-on-ones still makes you feel uncomfortable, talk about it. It’s not weakness but strengths when you talk about that feeling.

For example, you can say the following:

“John, I’d like to conduct 1 on 1 meetings with each of my direct reports on a regular basis. This is very important to me because I believe that if we spend more time together, we will understand each other better and I can support you much better.

To be honest, starting with these one-on-ones still feels a bit unusual or awkward to me. But I strongly believe it’s important to start with it and it will help us to improve working together.
So: How’s it going with you: Is there something I can currently support you with?”

By conducting one-on-one you offer your employees a forum to exchange ideas with you. Of course, your employees also want to hear your opinion, but it is particularly important that your employees can share their thoughts and issues with you.

One-on-ones are not about you.

Therefore: One-on-one meetings are not about you, they are about your employees. Be sincerely interested in them, in the job they do and in their personality.

I promise that one-on-ones will be a game changer in your leadership. They pay off in the long term for everyone involved.

I have put together a checklist for one-on-one meetings. You can download this check list for free here:

The inspiring quote

“We have this religion that everyone has one on ones on the team. We think everyone should be doing it. It just leads to a happier work place, and it takes almost no investment. It really pays off.“

David Cancel

How to deal with a demanding boss

Do you have a demanding boss? A boss who asks you to meet unrealistic or even impossible to reach goals?
How can you deal with this as a manager yourself being in the sandwich position?

During my time in middle management, I had some tough negotiations about goals with my bosses. Often I didn’t know how to react to these demanding bosses. But over time I learned how to deal with these situations and how to handle unrealistic goals.

How to set goals

Before we talk about these demanding bosses and how to deal with them, let’s have a look on how to agree on goals in general. There is a big difference between setting goals or agreeing on goals. Unfortunately, some managers don’t seem to be very clear about this:

“Come on, John! We´ve talked enough. This is your goal: You have to accept it!”

Uh no. This is not an agreement! That is just setting a goal.

But you should agree on goals rather than set them. Because, you need committed employees who want and are capable to achieve these goals. You´ll gain nothing from just setting a goal and your employees are not committed.

If, you want to have people in your team who think actively and who don’t come to you with problems but with solutions, you have to agree on goals.

You have to ask, you have to discuss and you have to convince your employees about goals. You need to negotiate about the goals with your employees not just set them.

A goal that your employee has set himself or herself, that has a much stronger meaning for him or her.

For the bosses: Listen Carefully

By the way: Listen carefully to the ideas your employees have.

You will probably be amazed at the high goals that motivated employees set themselves. That was often the case when I proceeded that way.

But my own boss is very demanding…

How to deal with a demanding boss

But my boss doesn’t agree on goals. He sets goals and sometimes these goals are very demanding. And now, I have to convince my team to agree on them. How can I do this?

Not an easy situation. If you are convinced that you and your team can reach the goal, then it is important to win over your employees.

If  you are not convinced of the goal your boss set, then you´ll have to tell your boss directly.

Try to speak to him and understand why the goal is so important to him. What is really behind it? If you know this, then you can make a counter-proposal. In this way you have a much better chance to change the goal.

How to deal with unrealistic goals

Sometimes bosses set unrealistic goals  – not out of madness, but because they assess the situation and the resources differently:

“Well,  John: The goal for you and your team is to introduce the new ERP system within the next 6 months. It will be tough, but I’m convinced you can do it. ”

You may reply:

“Sorry boss, but 6 months? That won´t work!”

But that´s not how you should respond. Simply blocking, does not help.

The counter proposal

Instead, make a counter-proposal, for example:

“I understand that we have to introduce the new ERP system as quickly as possible. I also promise you that we will work on it with full commitment. But we can’t do it in 6 months. At least not with the current team. If we can temporarily get 2 external consultants, I think we will make it. But if we don’t get any additional resources, then it will definitely take us at least 10 months. ”

Now your boss can decide whether 10 months are ok or if he changes the budget and adds two external consultants for the project.

 

How to deal with impossible to achieve goals

What can you do if your boss demands impossible things and won´t change his mind about it?

“Come on, John. You and your team have developed this great gas engine with 97% efficiency. It surely will be possible to increase the efficiency a bit.

Take our sales team for instance. They increased sales by 30% last year. It´s not too much to ask if I want 4% more efficiency. 4% come on: 101% efficiency is not a big deal. Just ask the sales department how they do the 30%. – Anyway, the goal is set. Increase by 4%! Go for the 101 % efficiency”

If your boss has unrealistic demands, you can’t just accept them.

You have to act immediately and you have to tell your boss in a friendly but persistent manner that this goal is impossible to achieve. In this example, the goal even contradicts physical laws.

When you cannot accept a goal of a demanding boss…

You can’t just accept impossible goals and pass them on to your team. That will not do it. If you did, your team would no longer accept you.

And your boss will later blame you if you failed to achieve the impossible goal. – And 101% efficiency: this will keep you on your toes, believe me!

“Well, John didn´t really disagree with hs goal. Of course, I assumed that the 4% goal could be achieved. I’m not a technical guy! He is the expert. And now we are in a mess. It is end of the year and we did not reach our goal. That will have  consequences for John!”

So what can you do if your boss has unrealistic demands?

Here are my 3 tips:

1. Clarity

Say it kindly, but immediately, in a straightforward way and without beating around the bush: This task is not feasible. It cannot be achieved.

2. Counter-proposal

Make a counter-suggestion of what a realistic solution could look like and how a realistic goal could be set.

Consequence

If you have said

“No”

to an impossible goal from your point of view, you must remain resolute and consistent.

You can be persuaded to accept a challenging goal, e.g. 30% more sales or something like that. But an impossible goal to achieve, a goal that you have identified and named as such in front of your boss, you can´t reject at first and then at some point later still accept it.

You have to stay consistent and say “No”, even at the risk that your boss will not like it. Yes that might have negative consequences for you, but if you don’t reach the goal, the consequences are worse by far.

Sorry! There is no other way!